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CARPHA says zika samples must be tested within five-day window

Published:Saturday | August 27, 2016 | 8:35 AM
The Zika virus may be accompanied by rashes on the skin and red puffy eyes.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) says Zika blood samples for laboratory confirmation must be taken and sent to it no more than five days from the onset of the first sign or symptom. 

Executive Director, CARPHA, Dr.  James Hospedales explains that CARPHA uses RT-PCR tests for laboratory confirmation of the Zika virus infection. 

He says samples collected, sent and received after the five-day period may not be valid for PCR testing.

Hospedales further says the agency continues to work on offering additional testing methods that are valid beyond five days. 

In the meantime, since dengue and chikungunya are still circulating in the region and the symptoms are similar, CARPHA routinely tests all samples for these three diseases. 

CARPHA is one of only two laboratories in the English-speaking Caribbean that has the technical capacity to accurately test for Zika virus.

Local transmission of the Zika virus has been reported in 45 Caribbean and Latin American States, with almost all CARPHA member states having confirmed cases. 

CARPHA says in countries where local transmission has already been confirmed, there is no need for everyone to be tested. 

In light of this, only persons who are in ‘high risk’ categories, namely, pregnant women, children under the age of five years, adults over 65 years, hospitalised patients and persons with chronic illnesses, will be tested.